The Philadelphia Flower Show 2016
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual floral and landscape design show held in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The theme of the 2016 show was “Explore America,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service.


I have always heard about huge flower shows and have seen pictures from these extravagant events but somehow I never realized that attending one was as easy as buying a ticket. So when I heard that the Philadelphia Flower Show was going on the week of my mother’s birthday, I surprised her with two tickets and off we went. Held regularly by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society since 1829, the show was appropriately historical considering its location. The theme of the show this year was “Explore America,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service.

Each of the displays was themed after a national park, incorporating native wildflowers and trees or recreating iconic landmarks with flowers. My favorite displays were not as literal as those that recreated a park in miniature but instead used flowers to capture its spirit and wonder. The Arches National Park display referenced several famous rock formations with large elaborate constructions of cardboard, flowers, and plant material. Another ambitious entry was comprised of floral interpretations of famous Ansel Adams photographs that stayed true to a “black & white” aesthetic with white orchids and birch tree trunks.

I was particularly excited to see an entire display celebrating DC’s own National Tulip Library that was a welcome profusion of pure flower intensity with hundreds of tulips of various colors and styles bursting from the floor. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was another exhibit that stood out for the sheer abundance of flowers on display—a mountain of orchids and bromeliads was aflame with bright oranges, reds, and yellows.

Just past the themed park exhibits was row after row of the top contenders of the plant competition. This was the best of the best in just about every horticultural category imaginable. We loved the Wardian Cases, old-school terrariums made of glass and metal that resemble miniature greenhouses with little ecosystems nestled inside. There was a small section dedicated to several schools of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) with some exciting abstract floral design creations.

I was less interested in the sections of floral-inspired artwork and jewelry. In fact, I was unimpressed with everything that did not include live flowers in some way or another, and I was disappointed when the floral displays gave way to a sea of merchants selling gaudy garden supplies. Admitting my floral-bias, the only complaint I had of the plant show itself might be that the National Park theme made the displays lean towards forests and trees rather than flowers. But if there was any flower show to be my first, I am glad it was the biggest, and longest-running flower show in the country!

>> Read my review of the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show here!

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